SSTN Mailbag: A Trade Proposal, The Future At Catcher, And The ALDS Roster!
For all of the hand-wringing during the dog days of August, during which many fans seemed concerned that the Yankees might lose their grip on the AL East, the Yankees controlled the trough of their August swoon and roared through September, going 17-8 with peripheral statistics that closely mirrored their best months in the first half of the season. The Yankees also won 99 games, just one off of the 98 games I predicted prior to the start of the 2022 regular season. Looking back at August in proper context (after all, hindsight is 20/20), we see fairly clearly that injuries and the law of averages caught up with the Yankees. The Yankees remain a bit banged up heading into the playoffs, but the new playoff format affords the team a short respite during which hopefully some of their more damaged assets can get a bit healthier (Holmes, Carpenter, etc.). For the first time since 2019, I feel really good about the Yankees heading into the playoffs. Let's hope for some magic!
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll talk about a trade proposal, look at the catching situation next year and into the future, and I'll give you my personal ALDS Roster choices for the Yankees! Let's get at it:
Nolan proposes the following trade: Josh Donaldson and [Michael] King to the Miami Marlins for Pablo Lopez.
Sigh, if only the Marlins would take a deal like that. The Marlins reportedly turned down a deal at the deadline for Lopez that was built around Gleyber Torres and presumably additional good pieces, which means there is approximately zero chance the Marlins would add salary while getting worse in the process.
However, this trade proposal does point out a couple of very important points. For one, I can't help but think that the Yankees find a way to unload Donaldson this offseason, even if it means eating some salary. Donaldson is still excellent defensively, but he didn't hit (and has declined in that department for the last few years) and is prone to nagging injuries. The Yankees have numerous options at 3B internally who are young and deserve playing time, so I think Donaldson is in the midst of his final games in pinstripes.
Secondly, it wouldn't shock me at all if the Yankees revisited acquiring Pablo Lopez this offseason. Jameson Taillon is a free agent this offseason and the Yankees unloaded the majority of their upper level starting pitching depth at the trade deadline, so I expect the Yankees to target pitching on the trade market. Lopez is a sinkerballer with a history of solid performance who would slot in nicely in the back of the rotation.
Cary asks: Here's my a follow up for the offseason. I'm a HUGE believer in Jose Trevino's defensive value. How about assessing the state of the Yankees catching? 2023 is of course going to be on our mind soon enough, but beyond 2023. How about 2024 and the future??
Cary asked this question in the comments section of last week's SSTN Mailbag, and included a line about Cashman getting lucky (paraphrasing here) with Trevino. It would be fair to say Cashman and his team got lucky with Trevino this year, except that the Yankees do this almost every year for the last 4 or 5 years. At this point, whether or not you like Brian Cashman, he and his team deserve credit for their consistent ability to acquire low cost talent that consistently prove capable of playing key roles on playoff caliber teams. At this point, it's a feature, not a surprise.
I agree, Jose Trevino is hugely valuable due to his defensive contributions, and his ability to consistently make contact has allowed for some pretty impressive hot streaks. However, it is clear that he wore down in September after catching the highest quantity of innings he had ever caught in his career (Majors or minors), and the peripheral numbers show that Trevino is due for offensive regression, which we saw in the second half of the season. In fact, despite Trevino's defensive value, there is a good argument to be made that Kyle Higashioka is more deserving of starts right now, having hit .299/.317/.485 in the second half combined with very good defense.
For next year and beyond though, I greatly prefer Trevino to Higashioka based on the value of his glove and his ability to handle the pitching staff. However, I do believe that the Yankees can upgrade behind the plate to take some pressure off of Trevino. It is really hard to hold up as a catcher all year, and given the dearth of good catchers around the league, the Yankees could capitalize on a market inefficiency by finding a way to acquire more catching.
Before the season started, I targeted Sean Murphy with the Oakland A's. Trevino's first half success quieted the lobby for a catcher, but by season's end, my faith in Murphy's talent was well-placed. Murphy produced 3.5 bWAR (compared to Trevino's 2.3 bWAR), while putting up a 120 OPS+ and again slashing his K% significantly. Murphy has plus raw power that he has shown he can get to in games (and it would likely increase outside of the cavernous left-centerfield in Oakland), is entering the prime of his career, and comes with multiple years of team control. Oh, and as a dead-pull hitter, Murphy stands to get more hits through the left side with the elimination of the shift.
The big question about catching in the future is what a good defensive catcher will look like. An electronic strike zone is coming eventually, and MLB has instituted multiple rules meant to encourage more running on the basepaths. Lost in everything Trevino does well is what he doesn't do well: throw. Trevino has among the worst arms behind the plate in baseball, with a pop time that ranks in the 34th percentile and velocity on throws to 2B that averages 77.9 MPH in 2022, which is in the bottom-10 in baseball among catchers with a minimum of 5 throws. Murphy, on the other hand, ranks in the 96th percentile in pop time, with the 10th best velocity on throws to 2B at 86 MPH. Murphy is also nearly Trevino's framing equal, ranking in the 84th percentile in baseball. I think the combination of someone like Murphy and Trevino could give the Yankees the strongest catching tandem in all of baseball in 2023.
Beyond 2023, the Yankees are pretty thin down on the farm. Austin Wells improved this year behind the plate, but he's not a catcher having watched him play multiple times this year. Wells has an awful arm that's helped some by a clean exchange, struggles to block the ball, and remains a very poor receiver; his bat plays, so the Yankees would be well served by giving Wells a chance to learn another position full-time in 2023.
Antonio Gomez came around with the bat in the 2nd half at low-A Tampa this year, has a true rocket for an arm, and looks to be a good receiver behind the plate. He's still likely 2-3 years away from even a cup of coffee in the Majors, but defensively he'll definitely make the grade if he stays healthy.
Former top-15 prospect, Anthony Seigler, had a strong bounce-back season, reaching A+ with a good arm and athleticism behind the plate while making some solid contact at the plate. He's missed so much development time over the last few years that I wouldn't count on him making the big leagues, but the skills are there for him to be a solid backup eventually.
In short, the Yankees need to bolster the depth chart from outside of the organization. Adding a high-end catcher like Muprhy only deepens the roster.
Dave asks: How would you align the Yankee roster for the ALDS?
I'll give you my roster. A couple of quick notes: I'm going to give you my personal roster, but I'm also going to be realistic based on the Yankees' decisions to this point. As much as I believe Oswald Peraza should start at SS, I don't think the Yankees will do it. I also believe the Yankees will go with a 3-man rotation in the ALDS, but I believe both Taillon and German will make the roster. As much as a prefer an 11-man pitching staff in the ALDS, I don't see the Yankees doing it, so my pitching staff has 12 pitchers.
Here it is:
Starting Pitchers (3)
Nestor Cortes Jr.
Relief Pitchers (9)
C - Jose Trevino
1B - Anthony Rizzo
2B - Gleyber Torres
3B - Josh Donaldson/DJ LeMahieu (depending on matchup/health)
SS - IKF
LF - Oswaldo Cabrera
CF - Harrison Bader
RF - Aaron Judge
DH - Giancarlo Stanton
C - Kyle Higashioka
DH/PH - Matt Carpenter
OF - Aaron Hicks
INF - Oswald Peraza